Having the opportunity to work with and serve underprivileged children is always an honorable occasion. However, between the possible culture shock and experience of meeting children in traumatic situations, you may feel as if you were unprepared for your trip. It is easy to go into these trips with a savior complex or a desire to boost your reputation. But the point of these experiences is for the underprivileged children to be served and feel valued. If you find yourself with the opportunity to go on a trip or serve in your community in the future, continue reading to see some practical ways to prepare for the experience.
Check Your Intentions
Firstly, you must take a long hard look at your intentions for taking the trip. It is natural that the trip will be just as refreshing for you as it is for the disadvantaged children. However, you will be able to return home to your friends and family afterward, and, depending on the type of trip or organizational purpose, the children may not be able to reside in such luxury after you leave. Are you serving these children simply to feel like a good person, or will you actually care to continue serving them and begin a possible relationship with them? If you have a superior attitude going into the trip, it could possibly do more harm than good. It is best to approach this service opportunity with a humble heart ready to serve without needing gratification for doing so.
Learn Some of the Language
If you are serving a community that speaks a language other than what you are fluent in, you should highly consider learning some of the local dialects. You do not have to become fluent overnight, but even learning a few common phrases can go a long way and develop a closer relationship with the individuals you will be serving. This skill can also help you determine particular needs of the community or uncover additional opportunities to serve. Knowing the local language is especially important when working with children. They will find it both humorous and endearing when you try to communicate with them.
Try Their Customs and Foods
A great way to make lasting connections and show the children of a community that you care is to take part in their customs and traditions and eat their local food. Rather than pushing your own cultural norms on them, they will feel a lot more trusting of you and more comfortable with you if you show respect for their culture. If you attempt to accustom them to American traditions right away, it may scare them off, as this is not something they are used to at all. Try approaching the trip by opening yourself up to new experiences that will better connect you with the children and establish a trusting relationship.